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Commissioner calls for national plan on child wellbeing

Graphic: Commissioner Megan Mitchell at the launch of her final report

Australia’s Children’s Commissioner has launched the final report of her term, a comprehensive assessments of children’s rights in the country

Australia's Children's Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, has launched her final report – one of the most comprehensive assessments of children's rights ever produced in the country.

The report makes clear that the mental health of Australian children is not being cared for sufficiently and that governments must do more to ensure children's wellbeing.

"Not only do children require better access to mental health services, but they also need earlier intervention and higher quality care," Commissioner Mitchell said.

The report calls on the Federal Government to develop a National Plan for Child Wellbeing and to appoint a Cabinet-level Minister with responsibility for children's issues.

Graphic: School children on Thursday Island

National data shows one in seven children aged four to 17 were diagnosed with mental health disorders in a 12-month period and that rates of suicide and self-harm are increasing.

Suicide was the leading cause of death for children aged five to 17 in 2017, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children accounting for almost 20% of all child suicides.

There were 35,997 hospital admissions for self-harm in the ten years to 2017.

Other urgent concerns highlighted in the report include: from 2013 to 2017, there was a 27% increase in reported substantiations of child abuse and neglect; the number of children in out-of-home care has increased by 18% over the last five years; and approximately 17% of children under the age of 15 live in poverty.

The report shows children in vulnerable situations suffer most through a lack of government focus. This includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children with a disability, children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and LGBTI children.

Commissioner Mitchell said: "There is a gap between the rights we have promised vulnerable children and how those rights are implemented. It is vital that we address the gap in order to better protect children's rights."

The report is a culmination of the work Commissioner Mitchel has done throughout her seven-year term, which ends next month.

>> Read the Children's Rights Report 2019

Date: 10 February 2020

Source: Australian Human Rights Commission

Image credits

  1. Commissioner Megan Mitchell at the launch of her final report - Australian Human Rights Commission
  2. School children on Thursday Island - Australian Human Rights Commission